Further election-related tensions surfaced in Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government this week as hardliners in President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF called for the removal of the country’s electoral commission chief, who they accused of overstepping his authority and sympathizing with the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
Critics of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chairman Simpson Mutambanengwe, a retired judge, charged that he made a statement recently at an elections symposium in Spain accusing war veterans with close ties to ZANU-PF of terrorizing rural dwellers.
ZANU-PF sources said the hardliners also took exception to Mutambanengwe’s publicly expressed position that elections cannot be held this year due to a lack of funds for the ballot, saying he has no mandate to make statements on election funding or timing.
Mutambanengwe has repeatedly clashed with ZANU-PF over the issue of election timing. The former ruling party has demanded since late 2010 that elections be held in 2011.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that his party is concerned at Mutambanengwe’s conduct, confirming some in the party are calling for him to be sacked.
But Mutambanengwe denied making any statements accusing war veterans of terrorizing villagers, and insisted it is within his mandate as chairman of the Electoral Commission to comment publicly about the financial situation of his panel.
Bulawayo-based political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said Mutambanengwe is simply paying the price for doing his job in a professional manner.